“What is the Christian viewpoint concerning the impending war against Iraq? Is this God’s wrath being unleashed against them for their ungodliness? If the answer is yes, does God choose a nation far more ungodly to do this? Should Christians see the war as being justified because the people of Iraq are not Christians?”
Thank you for this thoughtful question. I am sure that many are contemplating these matters with considerable concern.
The Christian has no need of developing a political “position” relative to any war in particular. The principal concern of God’s children should be the spiritual war between good and evil — one that is engaged with the “sword of the Spirit,” rather than with the carnal implements of world powers (2 Cor. 10:3ff; Eph. 6:12ff). The following biblical propositions are worthy of sober reflection.
God Is Sovereign
The term “sovereign” denotes the right that Jehovah has to rule the Universe he fashioned. (Note that the word “reign” is contained within “sovereign.”) The Lord has this “right” because he is the Creator, therefore, the Owner of every thing that has been made (Psa. 24:1; Mt. 20:15). Does not the potter have a “right” over the clay? (see Rom. 9:20-21; cf. Eph. 1:11). Scripture teaches that it is the epitome of arrogance to suggest otherwise (cf. Isa. 29:16).
Jehovah is “ruler over the nations” (Psa. 22:28), who are but a “drop from a bucket,” and are accounted as the mere “dust on the scales” (Isa. 40:15) from the divine vantage point. He removes rulers and sets them up (Dan. 2:21; cf. 4:17). The Lord determines the longevity of nations and the extent of their territories (Acts 17:26). To fail to acknowledge this reality is to disregard the testimony of Scripture.
Nebuchadnezzar (king of ancient Babylon — now Iraq) boasted that his mighty kingdom was the result of his own military prowess (Dan. 4:30). The Lord removed the egotistical and evil ruler from his throne and made him to dwell like a beast for seven years (a crash course in divine sovereignty!). When that educational exercise was concluded, the king declared:
“And at the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the Most High, and I praised and honored him who lives for ever; for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom from generation to generation. And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; and he does according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What are you doing?” (Dan. 4:34-35).
But the Bible student must remind himself that Jehovah’s judgments are “unsearchable,” and his activity cannot be “traced out” (literally, he cannot be “tracked” – Rom. 11:33ff). No one fathoms the providential operations of deity. One cannot say, therefore, which international movements are of God, and which are matters of pure circumstance.
Jehovah Is Just
One cannot render moral judgments, strictly on what “seems” reasonable from the human moral standpoint. It is not possible to discern infallibly exactly which nations are more deserving of divine wrath than others. And there is ample Bible evidence to establish this premise.
From a naturalistic viewpoint, it would appear that the three Babylonian invasions of Palestine (606-586 B.C.), against the people of Israel, were a horrible injustice. The Chaldeans were grossly heathen, while the nation of Israel, though flawed with multiple weaknesses, was seemingly better. This was the problem with which the prophet Habakkuk struggled (see Hab. 1:13). How could God use a person as malignant as Nebuchadnezzar, to bring a force against his own “chosen” people? Where is the justice in that?
It was explained to the prophet, however, that the Lord would use the Chaldeans as a mere tool — to punish Israel — and then, as an unrighteous people, they too would be judged by their Maker (cf. Jer. 25:8-14). The situation, though, was clearly beyond human analysis.
A First-Century Case Study
Consider the case of the Roman invasion of Palestine (A.D. 66-70). Here again there was the situation of a pagan force assaulting the Hebrew people in their own land. The conflict, according to Josephus, was a bloody spectacle that cost the lives of more than one million Jews, with thousands of others being taken captive and deported into slavery. What were the actual facts regarding this war, and what would have been the “Christian position”?
First, while many might argue that the Roman invaders were the culprits, persecuting the Hebrews in their own, God-given land, the Bible plainly demonstrates otherwise.
Christ declared that his Jewish brethren had rebelled against Jehovah for centuries, and that the current generation was merely “filling up the measure” of disobedience that had been begun by their ungodly ancestors (Mt. 23:29-36). Moreover, in the “Parable of the Marriage Feast” (Mt. 22:1ff), the Lord indicated that God would send “his armies” to destroy the Israelite murderers and burn their city (v. 7; cf. Mt. 21:41ff). Divine wrath was to come upon the nation to “the uttermost” (1 Thes. 2:16). Clearly, then, the “Christian position” could not have been pro-Israel.
Second, in spite of the fact that there were numerous pieces of evidence establishing that the destruction of Jerusalem was orchestrated by the providential hand of God, there is not the slightest indication that the Christians were to enter the public forum and engage in pro-Roman oratory. They had no authorization to be involved in either side of the controversy. Rather, they were instructed to avoid the conflict by fleeing from the region as certain tell-tale “signs” of the impending battle became apparent (Mt. 24:16).
They were admonished to: pray for their own safety (v. 20), ignore the testimony of false prophets (vv. 23ff), continue their exalted mission of proclaiming the gospel (vv. 14,31), and exert their leavening, Christian example as God’s elect, thus effecting a beneficent influence among their peers (v. 22). There is not the slightest evidence that they were to develop a “position” on the matter, much less become involved in the actual conflict. They had a higher calling.
What, then, should be the “Christian position” relative to the carnal engagements of the nations? Our position platform should be this:
(1) All responsible people of every nation are lost without a comprehensive acknowledgement that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of man from sin (Rom. 3:23,26; Jn. 14:6; Acts 4:11-12).
(2) God loves the whole of humanity in all nations, and he does not wish to see a single soul lost (Jn. 3:16; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9).
(3) Salvation may be accessed only through the divine plan of redemption that is set forth in the New Testament (Mt. 28:19-20; Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3-4,17; Gal. 3:26-27, etc.).
(4) Christians have a burning obligation to love all mankind, and to work to the end that people everywhere are exposed to the truth of the gospel of Christ (Mt. 28:18-20; Mk. 16:15-16).
(5) God can, and will, deliver judgments — both temporal and eternal — against the wicked (Acts 17:26; 2 Cor. 5:10), consistent with his own program of operation. But man is not privy to the intricacies of his movements.
(6) All Christians should obey the authorities under which they live — so long as such obligations do not conflict with the revealed will of God (Rom. 13:1ff; 1 Pet. 2:13ff; Acts 5:29). Moreover, they should pray for peace to the end that the cause of Christ may flourish in a tranquil environment (1 Tim. 2:1-2).
(7) Finally, followers of Christ should trust God in his providential operations, and be confidently comforted by the reality that all things will be worked out for the ultimate good of the eternal plan that the Lord is implementing (Rom. 8:28; Eph. 3:10-11).